Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Celebrating Christmas

Last night with my immediate family, tonight with our Christmas Eve service, tomorrow with Melinda's family, Friday with mine, and Saturday with my mother-in-law's.

It's not quite twelve days of Christmas, but it seems like it's getting closer all the time!

It's a real treat to celebrate the birth of our Savior in so many different ways, with so many different people: worshiping, feasting, fellowshipping, giving, receiving, playing, sleeping.

It may surprise some of you to know that many of our Protestant fathers took a rather dim view of Christmas. Consider the following passage from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation.

Herewith I shall end this year--except to recall one more incident, rather amusing than serious. On Christmas Day, the Governor called the peole out to work as usual; but most of the new company excused themselves, and said it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them, if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he went with the rest, and left them; but on returning from work at noon he found them at play in the street, some pitching the bar, some at stool-ball, and such like sports. So he went to them and took away their games, and told them that it was against his conscience that they should play and others work. If they made the keeping of the day a matter of devotion, let them remain in their houses; but there should be no gaming and revelling in the streets. Since then, nothing has been attempted in that way, at least openly.
Though Bradford made allowances for those whose consciences led them to do otherwise, he clearly discouraged the residents of Plymouth to observe the holiday. A harder line was taken by in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where the observance of Christmas was outlawed altogether. Offenders were fined.

Why would these devoted Christians object to the celebration of Christmas? Several reasons, but all of them having to do with thinking of Christmas as specifically a Roman Catholic holy day. Think about it...Christmas is short for Christ's Mass. And if there is anything a good solid Protestant doesn't want to do it is to give credence to Rome's doctrine of the Mass.

But this is not the only objection they urged against celebrating Christmas.

The Roman Catholic Church has in its liturgical calendar numerous "obligation days." These are days on which the faithful are obliged to attend Mass. Failure to do so is a sin. Protestants, however, especially of the Reformed variety, taught that only God's word can bind the conscience. Only what is specifically declared in Scripture (or what may be deduced therefrom "by good and necessary consequence") can be obligatory. Scripture does not command the observance of Christmas--in fact it doesn't even give us any light on what time of year Jesus was born. Therefore, Christians are under no obligation to attend services for worship on December 25 (unless of course it falls on a Sunday, in which case the obligation to attend public worship arises from the fact that it is the Lord's Day, or the Christian Sabbath).

That being said, some Protestants (e.g., Lutherans and Anglicans) saw no harm in observing December 25th as the date of our Lord's nativity, provided it was not regarded as an obligation, and that the customs and worship associated with its celebration were not inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture.

The Reformed or Calvinistic wing of the Reformation, to which the Pilgrims and the New England Puritans belonged, held to a form of the "regulative principle of worship." This principle states that whatever is not commanded in Scripture (with respect to worship) is forbidden. And since there is no express warrant in Scripture to observe the 25th day of December as a day of worship commemorating the birth of Jesus, then it ought not to be done.

I identify with the Reformed wing of the Reformation, but on this point I am in hearty agreement with my fellow Protestants in the Lutheran and Anglican churches. It seems as natural as can be as a Christian to rejoice and be glad at the thought of the incarnation of the Son of God and to hold services of worship and thanksgiving.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14).

Amen and amen!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Story Behind December 25

It is well known that the Bible does not give us the date of Jesus' birth. This fact has led a good number of well-meaning people to question whether his birth should even be celebrated at all. Some have even made the claim that the date of December 25 was deliberately settled upon as the day to commemorate his birth because it was already kept as a holy day by pagans in the Roman Empire. In settling upon December 25, the church (we are told) made an ill-advised attempt to christianize a pagan festival in the hope of helping the pagans convert to Christianity. Therefore, celebrating Christmas, is an implicit participation in paganism.

So the story goes. But William Tighe sets the story straight in his article, "Calculating Christmas," which first appeared in 2003 in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance... (read more)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Learning (even more) from the Pilgrims

As a follow up to the previous post I should point out that the Pilgrims abandoned their forced experiment in communism only by degrees. When they gave each family a plot of land to farm and to enjoy the fruits thereof, they did not give the land for a perpetual holding, but rotated each parcel of land by yearly lot. This naturally caused problems.

In order that they might raise their crops to better advantage, they made suit to the Governor to have some land apportioned for permanent holdings, and not by yearly lot, whereby the plots which the more industrious had brought under good culture one year would change hands the next, and others would reap the advantage; with the result that the manuring and culture of the land were neglected. It was well considered, and their request was granted. Every person was given one acre of land, for them and theirs, and they were to have no more till the seven years had expired.

The move had the intended effect and the colony prospered all the more.

Learning from the Pilgrims

One of the books I had my students read this semester was Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, who was elected governor of Plymouth Colony in 1621 and continued to serve in that position for more than 30 years.

There is much we can learn from the Pilgrims, and not only about the value of courage, hard work, and faith in God. There's a valuable economic lesson we can learn as well. By the terms of their contract with the London Company who put up a large portion of the funds to establish the colony, they were required to hold their lands and produce in common. This was an early experiment in communism. And how did things go, you ask? Here are Bradford's words:

So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
This might be well worth keeping in mind as we take a huge leap leftward.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gulliver's Lawyers

It’s not just in our own days that people have had a low opinion of lawyers. In his biting satire of early 18th century English life, Jonathan Swift has Gulliver tell his hosts in the land of the Houyhnhnms:

I said, “there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves. For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now, in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of
his element when he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will.

The second disadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with great caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the judges, and abhorred by his brethren, as one that would lessen the practice of the law. And therefore I have but two methods to preserve my cow. The first is, to gain over my adversary’s lawyer with a double fee, who will then betray his client by insinuating that he hath justice on his side. The second way is for my lawyer to make my cause appear as unjust as he can, by allowing the cow to belong to my adversary: and this, if it be skilfully done, will certainly bespeak the favour of the bench. Now your honour is to know, that these judges are persons appointed to decide all controversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals, and picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy; and having been biassed all their lives against truth and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud, perjury, and oppression, that I have known some of them refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than
injure the faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their nature or their office.

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directing accordingly.

“In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of the cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.

“It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me, or to a stranger three hundred miles off.

“In the trial of persons accused for crimes against the state, the method is much more short and commendable: the judge first sends to sound the disposition of those in power, after which he can easily hang or save a criminal, strictly preserving all due forms of law.”

Here my master interposing, said, “it was a pity, that creatures endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind, as these lawyers, by the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not rather encouraged to be instructors of others in wisdom and knowledge.” In answer to which I assured his honour, “that in all points out of their own trade, they were usually the most ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other subject of discourse as in that of their own profession.”

Ouch!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Suprisingly Strong Stand

Kudos to Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina. What if more churches took a stand like this? Well done, Rev. Newman, well done!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Reflections

Here are a few things to remember regardless of whether or not the presidential election went the way you thought it should.

First, the outcome is not the absolute disaster that many people think it is. God remains sovereign over all the affairs of men, even of powerful political figures. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). God is able to prevent whatever evil or whatever folly a leader may intend to do. “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success” (Job 5:12). And even that evil and folly which he permits them to achieve, he is able to turn to the good (Gen. 50:20).

Second, the outcome is not the unrivalled blessing that others imagine it to be. Politicians are notoriously pitiful saviors. The best of them too often leave behind a trail of broken promises, dashed hopes, unfulfilled expectations, and betrayed trusts. To build one’s hopes on getting the “right” man in office is like building a castle on a foundation of sand. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:9).

Third, it is God who gave us the results of the election. “Not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Ps. 75:6-7). This may seem a bitter pill to swallow, but the Scriptures are emphatic on this point. “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever…He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Dan. 2:20).

Some will foolishly conclude from this that whoever is elected is elected because he has God’s approval. After all, why else would God elevate him? But this isn’t necessarily so. God blesses a good people with good and wise rulers; and he curses a disobedient people with foolish and wicked rulers. God not only raised up David to be a blessing to his people (Acts 13:22), but he also raised up Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar to chasten and afflict them (see Ex. 9:16 and Jer. 25:8-9).

Fourth, the Lord requires governing officials to bow in submission before him and to serve his Son. “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way” (Ps. 2:10-12). Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 19:16; 1:5). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matt. 28:18). Any measure of authority which any human being has, he has on loan from him—and must answer to him.

Fifth, any return of our nation’s government to its biblical foundations will be the result of a moral and spiritual revival, and not the cause of it. In other words, the kingdom of God is not advanced by the exercise of raw political power. This is not to say that politics is unimportant or that the Christian faith is not concerned with good government. On the contrary, government has to do with the administration of justice, which is something every Christian ought to be concerned about (Deut. 16:18-20; Amos 15:5; Hab. 1:4). My point is, the kingdom of God advances from the bottom up, not from the top down. In a republic such as ours, godly rulers are a reflection of a godly people.

Finally, though there have been varying degrees to which different administrations have conformed to the reign of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures teach us to look forward to a time when all the nations will bow before him (Ps. 22:27-28; Dan. 7:13-14; Phil. 2:9-11).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Song of Solomon

There once was a man who had been strictly warned of the dangers of falling into the ditch on the right hand side of the road. So fearful was he of doing this that as he walked he kept as far away as possible from it; but he ended up falling into the ditch on the left.

The moral of this little parable is that often when we seek to avoid one error, we end up falling into another, opposite one.

Christians tend to be well aware of the dangers of sexual sin, and so we take measures to guard ourselves against it...as we should. In doing so, however, we are sometimes tempted to think that it is sex itself which is sinful. We forget that God created us male and female and that he intends husbands and wives to enjoy one another sexually.

My sermon this week will be an overview of “The Song of Solomon,” which is a celebration of marriage and the delights of the marriage bed.

It seems that the church for much of its history has been embarrassed by the sensual nature of the book and has sought every means possible to make it say something other than what it says.
At a very early date it was thought that the book had to be treated as an allegory; otherwise the inclusion of a love song in the Biblical canon could hardly be explained. What’s a work that makes only one casual reference to God (8:6), and speaks at length of the joys of human love doing in the canon of Scripture? Surely it must be an allegory of some sort.

But the book is clearly a love song. It’s meant to be erotic, but not in a graphic or profane way. Its language is indirect. It’s allusive, not explicit; and it serves as a corrective to an unwarranted Christian prudery on the one hand, and to a vulgar promiscuity on the other.

The Best Office Foreign Money Can Buy

It's really too bad George Washington's farewell address--delivered as his second term as president was winding down--isn't more widely known, and its admonitions more widely heeded by today's politicians.

One of Washington's chief concerns was foreign influence in American affairs.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican Government.

I wonder what he would say of the millions of dollars Barak Obama has illegally received from overseas.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wisdom From Our Founders

Thomas Jefferson nailed it.

"I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

This is no argument against banks per se, of course, but only an argument against the banking practices that modern banks are built upon...thanks to the Fed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gary Interviews Gary

Mix two Gary's discussing the economic crisis and here's what you get. Enlightening.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Even the Times Saw it Coming

The New York Times is no friend of conservative causes, but way back in 1999 it published an article that warned of the risky lending practices urged upon Fannie Mae by Clinton Administration.

One Step Closer to the Abyss

Hurry, more gasoline, we've gotta put the fire out!

It was the expansion of credit and the devaluation of the dollar that got us here, and the government just gave us more of the same.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Halloween

Here's a copy and paste job from Doug Wilson's blog offering us a good bit of wisdom on Halloween.

As another Halloween approaches, and as many of us are working on building alternatives, I wanted to take the opportunity to offer a few thoughts and pastoral suggestions. Here is the background.

First, November 1 is All Saints Day. The All Saints festival was first established during the times of persecution in the early church when the number of martyrs accumulated to the point where it was no longer possible to commemorate them all. In the time of John Chrysostom, all the martyrs were remembered on the first Sunday after Pentecost. In 608 A.D., the Pantheon, a former pagan temple to all the gods, was dedicated in Rome as a Christian church. The date of that dedication (May 13) became the day of "all saints." The day was moved to November 1 in 741 A.D. with the dedication of the Chapel of All Saints.

Second, in the British Isles, the day was known as All Hallows Day. The "eve" of that day, the night before, was known as Hallowe’en. In the minds of simple people, the night before the day of the holy ones was thought to be a last ditch party on the part of unholy ones — devils, witches, fairies, imps and so forth. With this kind of superstition, of course, we have nothing to do. Obviously, the custom of kids dressing up in order to play trick or treat did descend from this view, but the thing that is objectionable here is not the dressing up in itself, or the consumption of candy, but rather the dressing up as wicked creatures.

Third, Reformation Day is on October 31 and commemorates the posting of Luther’s famous theses, which is usually regarded as the inauguration of the Reformation. It is frequently honored by churches on the last Sunday of October. As it happens, Reformation Day is also Halloween.

Fourth, and the bottom line for us, is that both of these two days belong to the Christian church, and not to the pagans. And the days have been ours for many centuries, despite certain pagan encroachments of late. We should keep the days, and fight off the encroachments. And so . . .

Here are a few things to do: We are encouraging parishes to hold Reformation Day/All Saints Day parties and gatherings. The mood should be festive and filled with rejoicing — an exhibition of our gratitude for the faithfulness of the martyrs of the early church and the martyrs of the Reformation. This obviously can (and should) include kids dressing up and getting boatloads of candy, but I would strongly urge that no one have their kids dress up as members of the other team — witches, ghosts, devils, imps, or congressmen. We do want to urge a high level of celebration, but we don’t want to take our cues from the surrounding culture. So if you take your kid around to grandma’s house dressed up like a red M & M, or like Theodore Beza, don’t have them say trick or treat the same way some ghost or witch would. Of course, repent or perish or sola fide probably wouldn’t work either. Let’s do this
differently, and intelligently, and still have fun. So have them say trick or treat the way a cute M & M would.

What to avoid. We want parish parties, not pious parties. So when neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross). We do not want our parish parties to be a cheesy alternative, a sort of faux-Halloween. It should be a true All Hallow’s Eve, a true Reformation Day blow-out.

On a related note, there is no way to do this without kirkers differing among themselves about what is appropriate. This is reasonable — up to a point. We know the general direction we want to go, and we want to get there together with unity of spirit. This means learning to lighten up on details. So don’t freak out and rebuke someone if their kid goes over to an aunt’s house dressed like John Knox, but he cackles evilly instead of saying soli Deo gloria. But feel free to be concerned if someone from the Night of the Living Dead shows up at the parish party.

More on the Financial Crisis

Ten minutes of Ron Paul on Fox Business News. Well worth the time to watch. It's an interview before the House vote on Monday, but he explains why any government bailout--the House proposal or the one passed last night by the Senate or any other one in the future--is like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Fortunately our Senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts both voted against the bailout plan last night. Unfortunately, there was a huge majority that voted in favor of it (74-25). Let's hope the House rejects this plan like it rejected the earlier one Monday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Global Cooling

I have been a skeptic of the whole global warming thing. Not so much a skeptic of whether the earth is getting warming. There seems to be a bit of evidence that things warmed up a tad during the 90's.

Rather, my skepticism concerns the causes (I doubt it's principally man-made), and the alleged disastrous results if the earth's temperature should rise a few degrees.

Al Gore, of course, has had no such doubts on either point. He is so convinced, that he is encouraging young people to engage in civil disobedience in the cause of global warming.

But is the earth really getting warmer?
Scientists involved in NASA's Ulysses project reported that the intensity of the sun's solar wind was at its lowest point since the beginning of the space age — one more indication that the sun, the biggest source of energy affecting the Earth, is getting quiet. The weaker solar wind appears to be due to changes in the sun's magnetic field, but the cause is unknown. Sunspots, which normally fluctuate in 11-year cycles, are at a virtual standstill. In August, the sun created no visible spots. The last time that happened: June 1913. The results of the Ulysses spacecraft's mission, according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory project scientist Ed Smith, show that "we are in a period of minimal activity that has stretched on longer than anyone anticipated." The consequences for Earth are enormous. The lack of increased activity could signal the start of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event that occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century. It leads to extended periods of severe cooling such as what happened during the Little Ice Age. It may already be happening. The four major agencies tracking Earth's temperature, including NASA's Goddard Institute, report that the Earth cooled 0.7 degree Celsius in 2007, the fastest decline in the age of instrumentation, putting us back to where the Earth was in 1930. (See Investor's Business Daily).
If things should ever begin moving in the other direction it will probably be due to all the hot air coming from Al Gore.

More Good Sense from Ron Paul

Check out Ron Paul's perspective on the president's proposed bailout on Youtube before and after yesterday's vote.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Current Financial Crisis

The only major party presidential candidate who understands both the problem and the solution to our current economic crisis is Ron Paul. Either that or he's the only one with guts enough to talk about it. You can find Paul's analysis of the situation here.

For a really good introduction to economics in general, read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. In fact, read anything and everything you can get your hands on by Sowell. In my opinion, he's one of the most insightful thinkers of our day. You can read his weekly column here.

Another fine introduction to economics is Henry Hazlitt's, Economics in One Lesson. It's become a classic.

Murray Rothbard's What Has the Government Done to Our Money is good at explaining how monetary policy affects the value of the dollar, especially the effect of removing the dollar off the gold standard.

For a distinctively Christian approach to these subjects, try R. C. Sproul Jr.'s Biblical Economics, and Gary North's Honest Money and Salvation Through Inflation.

Our current economic situation really is dire. Unfortunately, as Ron Paul says, just like the proposals of FDR during the Great Depression, the various popular prescriptions to address today's crisis (including President Bush's bail out plan) are only going to make matters worse...far worse, like a doctor prescribing a Super-sized Double Quarter-pounder meal to treat a patient with high-cholesterol.

The problem is systemic. That is, it's not just an isolated problem here or there. The problem goes to the very core, and affects every aspect of our economic system: unbacked fiat money; fractional reserve banking; expansion of credit; artificially low interest rates; lowering of lending standards; government-backed home mortgages; and a host of other ways the Federal Reserve manipulates the market; etc.

The president's bail-out plan is just more of the same.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another PC Myth Exploded

All cultures are equal, right? And we shouldn’t judge cultures that differ from us? This is what we are constantly told by the relativistic forces of multiculturalism. All cultures are equal. We who live in the West shouldn't think that our once Christian culture was any better than any other.

Bernal Diaz might wish to disagree. In his telling the story of the conquest of Mexico, he frequently refers to the widespread practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism among the Indians in all the places they traveled, and makes no apology for taking measures to put a stop to it. Each paragraph below refers to a different place in their travels. And this is just a small sampling of passages that could be cited.

Juan de Grijalva with many of us soldiers landed to inspect this island, for we saw smoke rising from it. We found two stone buildings of good workmanship, each with a flight of steps leading up to a kind of altar, and on those altars were evil-looking idols, which were their gods. Here we found five Indians who had been sacrificed to them on that very night. Their chests had been struck open and their arms and thighs cut off, and the walls of the building were covered with blood. All this amazed us greatly, and we called this island the Isla de Sacrificios.

That day they had sacrificed two boys, cutting open their chests and offering their blood and hearts to that accursed idol.

When Alvarado came to these villages he found that they had been deserted on that very day, and he saw in the cues [temples] the bodies of men and boys who had been sacrificed, the walls and altars all splashed with blood, and the victims’ hearts laid out before the idols. He also found the stones on which the sacrifices had been made, and the flint with which their breasts had been opened to tear out their hearts. Alvarado told us that most of the bodies were without arms and legs, and that some Indians had told him that these had been carried off to be eaten. Our soldiers were greatly shocked at such cruelty.

I remember that in the square where some of their cues [temples] stood were many piles of human skills, so neatly arranged that we could count them, and I reckoned them at more than a hundred thousand. I repeat that there were more than a hundred thousand. And in another part of the square there were more piles made up of innumerable thigh-bones. There was also a large number of skulls and bones strong between wooden posts… We saw more of such things in every town as we penetrated further inland.

I must now tell how in this town of Tlascala we found wooden cages made of lattice-work in which men and women were imprisoned and fed until they were fat enough to be sacrificed and eaten. We broke open and destroyed these prisons, and set free the Indians who were in them. But the poor creatures did not dare to run away. However, they kept close to us and so escaped with their lives. From now on, whenever we entered a town our captain’s [Cortes] first order was to break down the cages and release the prisoners, for these prison cages existed throughout the country.
There is no doubt that the Spanish colonization and conquest of the New World was not without problems of its own. But surely even the most devoted secularist has to admit that the triumph of Christian civilization over Aztec paganism was a vast improvement. I think the poor people released from their cages before they could have their still beating heart ripped from their chests would think so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

All God's Creatures Have Fun 2

A dancing sea lion...whod'a thunk? Check it out here.

A Curious Prophecy

One of the really interesting things that Diaz mentions (several times) about the Spanish conquest of Mexico was the fact that all the Indian tribes held to a belief in a prophecy passed down to them from their ancestors that men with beards would come across the sea from the direction of the sunrise and rule over them. Where did this prophecy come from? Had there been a prior and long-forgotten contact with Europeans that served as the basis for this “prophecy”? Was it a legitimate prophecy, in that God really did speak through one of the pagan Indian prophets, as he did similarly through the pagan Balaam (Num. 22-24)? Or was it a faked prophecy of one of the pagan priests that God was pleased to use for his own purposes? Curious. Really curious.

PC Myth Exploded

In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been reading The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz, who marched with Cortes in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. It’s amazing just how different a first hand account of it is from the politically correct version that we generally hear today. According to the politically correct version, the Spanish were after gold, pure and simple. And they would let nothing stand in their way of acquiring it, not even the rights and lives of the Indians. The Spanish conquest was one of rape, pillage, plunder, and slavery--and all in the name of God and for the sake of gold.

Were there brutal, unscrupulous conquistadors, whose motives were lust and greed? No doubt there were. But to characterize the whole process of exploration, colonization, and conquest as if this is all it was, or even what it principally was, is clearly false. Worse, it's a slander of many good men.

Bernal Diaz came to the New World in 1514, settling for a time in Tierra Firme (present day Panama), where Balboa had discovered the South Sea (the Pacific Ocean), and then moving to Cuba where there was a larger, more established Spanish colony.

In February of 1517 (Martin Luther would post his Ninety Five Theses, inaugurating the Protestant Reformation, later that same year), a group of about 110 Spanish settlers organized an expedition to sail east to discover new lands. This was the first of three expeditions Diaz would make. They fitted out two ships but needed a third. The governor of Cuba, Diego Velasquez offered a ship to be purchased on credit if they would explore new lands and “fight the natives, whom we could ten sell to him for slaves and thus pay for the ship.” And then Diaz says, “Realizing the wickedness of the Governor’s demand, we answered that it would be against the laws of God and the king for us to turn free men into slaves.” The governor then proposed other terms, which the explorers accepted.

This episode shows that not all the Spanish settlers acted honorably and with good motives (i.e., Velasquez). But others were very conscientious Christians, including Diaz, who throughout the book constantly expresses his faith in Jesus Christ and his desire to serve him and bring the gospel to the Indians.

Bernal Diaz and the Conquest of New Spain

One of the surest ways to turn students off when it comes to having them learn history is to have them read a history textbook. Textbooks all generally suffer from the same fatal flaw. They are written by committee. Hardly anything is more likely to guarantee a student’s boredom. A dry listing of names and dates. A detached recounting of events. An unappealing telling of the story.

This is why in my history classes we don’t rely much on textbooks, and the ones we do use are not written by committee.

What I like to use—not only because it’s far more accurate, but also because it’s far more interesting—are original sources. So, since this year we are studying the Age of Exploration to the present, one of the works we are reading is Bernal Diaz’ The Conquest of New Spain. Diaz was one of the soldiers who fought under Hernando Cortes in the conquest of Mexico. He wrote a fascinating first hand, eye-witness account that is an absolute pleasure to read. Historians generally regard it as being the most accurate account we have of the conquest of Mexico.

By reading Diaz, my students and I are marching with Cortes in his campaigns against the Aztec Indians, experiencing his trials and triumphs with him, feeling Diaz' fear before battle and his exultation of victory afterward. We are coming to understand the mind of a Christian warrior in one of the epic battles of history in the triumph of Christianity over a particularly brutal form of paganism. And along the way many of the politically correct myths so commonly believed today about this episode of western history are being shattered.

In future posts, I’ll include some quotes and commentary from the book, which I hope you will enjoy. Even more, I hope you will buy the book and read it for yourself. You can purchase it here.

I'm Baaack!

For good or ill...I'm back online and ready to blog!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Bare Necessities

I haven't posted anything in a while because I've had a good bit of trouble with my internet connection. I have to borrow a computer in order to use the internet and it's terribly inconventient to do much online except for the barest necessities. Hope to be back soon.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

All God's Creatures have Fun!

I ran accross a story on Fox News about the discovery of far more gorillas in the Republic of Congo than researchers previously thought lived there. This picture accompanied the story. I was amused.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Flew vs. Dawkins

Flew vs. Dawkins
August 4, 2008

A while back I wrote a couple of pieces about the so-called New Atheism. The New Atheism is simply the old atheism with an attitude.

One of the leading lights of the New Atheism is Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who argues ad nauseum that belief in God is for little children and fools. Reasonable men (like Dawkins, of course) believe in neither god nor Santa Claus—nor for that matter the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. People who actually use their minds (like him), educated people (like him), reasonable people (like him), embrace the obvious truth that god does not exist.

Ah, but what is a new atheist to do when another prominent atheist, who says his goal is to go wherever the argument leads him, gives up his atheism? This is the pickle that Dawkins finds himself in. Not only must he explain away Anthony Flew’s giving up the atheist faith, he must answer Flew’s charge that he (Dawkins) is nothing but a blow hard “secular bigot.” You can read all about it here.

Obamanomics

Last Friday Barack Obama announced his Emergency Economic Plan.

“What’s that,” you say?

Glad you asked. The short answer is—it’s a political stunt to buy the votes of the economically naïve.

The plan calls for “Forcing big oil companies to take a reasonable share of their record breaking windfall profits and use it to help struggling families with direct relief worth $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple.” (For the full text of the plan click here.)

Just how would “big oil companies” be “forced” to do this? Through taxing the socks off them, of course.

Have you ever noticed how big business is always the villain in the economic policies of liberals? They always seem to assume that big businesses got so big because they cheated. They didn’t play by the rules. They had an unfair advantage.

In reality big businesses became big because they provided quality goods and services for the consumer at better prices than the other guys. This is simply the way the competitive free market works. Provide a product the customer wants at a price he can afford and you’re in business. Do this better than the next guy and your business grows.

Au contraire,” says the liberal, playing to our innate envy. “Those bad guys are prospering because they have some unfair advantage over the rest of us, and it’s up to the government to punish them and level the playing field so we can all get a piece of the action.” And what form does the proposed punishment take? More regulation and higher taxes, of course. This is what Obama proposes with his Emergency Economic Plan. Sock it to the oil companies by taxing their profits and redistribute the wealth to middle-class families.

The problem (one of many, actually) is that taxes are simply a cost of doing business, and the costs of doing business are always passed on to the consumer. Increase taxes on oil companies and the increase will be reflected in the price at the pump.

People are just naïve enough, however, not to understand that this is how it works. They don’t connect the dots. All they see is the government check coming in the mail and they think, “What a great guy this Obama is! It’s a good thing I’ve got this extra $500 dollars, because the price at the pump just went up.” Yes, the price did go up because the cost of doing business just went up.

He’s seeking to buy your vote with your own money. He’s asking you to give him $500 so he can cut you check for the same amount. Stand in awe of his creative economics.

Another problem with his plan (which is the same problem with all tax-and-spend liberalism) is that profits are why people are in business in the first place. Profit is a dirty word to liberals. But it shouldn't be. The fact of the matter is that no one would be in business if they didn’t think they would profit from it. Profit is the incentive to go to all the trouble to manufacture a product or to provide a service and to take the risk of starting a business. The higher the potential profit the greater the incentive. When profits are taxed profits are reduced, and so is the incentive to go into business. And so ultimately the consumer is hurt, not only because of the higher price of products, but also because a lower potential for profits discourages people from starting new competitive businesses. And competition is what drives prices down.

For more on the disastrous results Obama's Emergency Economic Plan will produce, see here and here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Media Obama-mongering

It has been rather stunning to see how the major news media have been fawning over Barack Obama. We have all known for a long time that the media has a very obvious bias for liberal candidates and causes. What’s surprising is not that they are Obama-mongers but that in their eagerness to see him elected they have thrown caution to the wind and given up all pretence to objectivity. This video highlights the problem.

On his recent trip to Iraq, Obama was accompanied by all three network news anchors: Charles Gibson (ABC), Katie Couric (CBS), and Brian Williams (NBC). Know how many accompanied John McCain earlier this year?

None.

With the free media coverage he’s getting, one wonders why he needs to raise so much campaign money, an incredible $51.9 million…last month.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Andrew Evans for Senate

Just a reminder: we are only two weeks away from the primary (Tuesday, August 5th). Whoever wins the primary will be our state senator, since the winner of the primary will run unopposed in November. Andrew has been endorsed by Kansas for Life. He's a limited government, social and fiscal conservative. We can have confidence that he will represent us well in Topeka. For more information, check out his website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Dubious Day to Celebrate

Do you know what today is? It's the "Cost of Government Day." Americans on average work 197 days out of the year to pay the full cost of federal, state and local government spending and regulatory costs. This means the cost of government at all levels of American society consumes nearly 54 percent of national income.

You can read more about it here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Inimitable Wodehouse

My family and I recently watched several episodes of Masterpiece Theatre’s adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Wodehouse was reluctant to have his two most popular characters depicted on stage or in film, saying, “Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book.” Nevertheless, director Simon Langton and actors Hugh Laurie (as Bertie Wooster) and Stephen Fry (as Jeeves) really do a fantastic job in putting these stories on film.

If you are not familiar with Wodehouse and his Jeeves and Wooster stories you really are missing some very entertaining reading. The stories take place in pre-World War II England. Bumbling Bertie Wooster and his witless friends are always getting themselves into scrapes of one sort or another only to be rescued by Jeeves, Bertie’s valet (or his “gentleman’s personal gentleman”). The stories often revolve around Bertie’s (or his friends’) relationship with women, all very innocent and humorous. Frequently it’s a matter of Bertie finding himself accidentally engaged to be married…yes, accidentally. Honor forbids Bertie from openly breaking the engagement, and so Jeeves concocts some plan whereby the young woman in question sees for herself that an alliance with Mr. Wooster is not in her best interests.

Other stories often involve Bertie helping one of his chums win the affections of a young lady, only to find that his plan backfires and makes matters worse. Enter Jeeves, who saves the day with his uncanny knack for setting matters right.

The humor is subtle and distinctively British, and I have often found myself laughing out loud.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good Reading

Over the years one of my favorite family pastimes has been reading aloud to our children. We’ve read some really good books by some really good authors—some well known (e.g., Tolkien, Lewis), others…not so much. Last night we finished 100 Cupboards by the not so well known (yet) Nathan Wilson, which left us eagerly awaiting the release of book two in the trilogy Dandelion Fire, which I just learned has been delayed until February of 2009.

100 Cupboards is the story of 12 year old Henry York, whose parents were kidnapped while bicycling across South America. But that’s not where the action is. The action is in little Henry, Kansas. (Hey, whatyaknow, another great story takes place in Kansas! Think, Wizard of Oz and Little House on the Prairie, and don’t forget that Marianne on "Gilligan’s Island" was a Kansas farm girl!)

Henry York is actually from Boston, but after his parents turn up missing, he’s shipped off to Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle. He’s given a bedroom in the attic and begins to hear things that go “bump” in the night. He tries to ignore it, but the next night he is awakened by bits of plaster falling on his bed and he sees two knobs broken through the wall…and one of them is slowly turning.

Henry scrapes the remaining plaster off the wall and discovers 99 cupboards with different shapes and sizes. He soon realizes the cupboards are portals to other worlds. That’s when the action begins.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Problem (As I See It)

This is a follow up to my previous post on the controversy surrounding “The Louisiana Science Education Act.”

As a Christian, the problem is not the fact that evolution is being taught to school children. That must be done.

I realize that my saying this may be a bit of a surprise, especially to those of you who know me to be an unapologetic young earth six day creationist.

Still, it’s true. I insist that evolution must be taught to school children. Because I think it’s true? No, but because it’s the reigning theory. We simply cannot ignore what the vast majority of the scientific community believes (not to mention a significant minority of the general population). That’s why during the next school year my students and I will read On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. . . Yeah, that book—the one by Charles Darwin. It’s a vitally important read. It’s without question the most influential book written in the last two hundred years. No book has done more to move Western culture away from its Christian foundations.

But that’s not the only thing we are going to read on the subject. We’re also going to read Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael Behe, the book that launched the intelligent design movement. It seems to me simply a matter of good pedagogy to present both sides of a controversial topic.

Unfortunately, that’s what Barry Lynn and Americans United for Separation of Church and State wish to deny to the children in the public schools of Louisiana, which brings us to the real problem, as I see it: tax-funded schools.

The problem with tax-funded schools is the same problem as with tax-funded churches. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion. The original intent of this provision was to prevent the federal government from preferring one particular Christian denomination from being favored above the rest by being chosen as the official church of the United States and being supported with tax dollars.

The rationale was expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he said, “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” Hear! Hear!

To compel, say, a Roman Catholic to pay for the support a Protestant church with his tax dollars is unjust. He ends up paying twice: he is forced to pay for the support of a Protestant church (whose theology he disbelieves and abhors) and then must pay for his own church with voluntary contributions.

The same is true, of course, if matters are moving in the other direction.

The framers of our Constitution wisely prevented this from happening by writing the First Amendment. But the same problem—the same injustice—is inherent in tax-supported schools because education is not a religiously neutral undertaking. Every subject in every school is taught from the perspective of the worldview—the religious presuppositions—of the teacher (and the textbook authors).

Roman Catholics understood this very early. They developed the parochial school system because in the early days America’s public schools were too Protestant—the teachers, the curriculum, everything. There were Bible readings (inappropriate for Catholics, at the time), Bible instruction (from a Protestant perspective), Protestant catechisms, and Protestant prayers. This meant that Roman Catholic parents were forced to pay for the Protestantizing of their children. They decided it was better to pull their kids out of the public schools and start their own. The problem was…they had to pay for both. They paid for the public school system with their tax dollars and their own schools through tuition—the same injustice as a tax-supported church.

Someone will say, “We no longer have Bible readings in the public schools. Nor any catechisms or prayers. So we have overcome the problem, right?”

Not at all. We’ve just exchanged one form of religious instruction for another. School children are no longer being instructed in a kind of watered-down, generic Protestantism, but in an anti-Christian secularism. It’s not that schools openly declare the non-existence of God. They just ignore Him. But the very omission of any consideration of God in the educational process teaches children to think that He is irrelevant to life and learning. And this is a far more subtle—and therefore a far more effective—form of indoctrination. Just begin with the assumption. Never identify it. Never call attention to it. Just leave God out of the discussion and the kids will get the hint.

The upshot of it all is that instead of the public school system being unjust only toward Roman Catholics, it’s unjust toward all Christians equally.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

There’s Trouble a-brewin’ in Louisiana

Earlier this week, the Louisiana State Senate voted 36-0 to approve a bill that passed the House by a vote of 94-3. The bill would allow science teachers to use supplemental materials, in addition to state-issued textbooks, on issues like evolution, global warming, and human cloning. The purpose of the supplemental materials, the bill explains, is to encourage “critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied.” The bill is particularly aimed at giving teachers the assurance of academic freedom to actually teach that there is such a thing as a controversy over these subjects (especially evolution), instead of simply being intimidated into silence.

Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to sign the bill.

As you can imagine the secular fundamentalists are in a tizzy. The bill—titled “The Louisiana Science Education Act”—allows the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to act upon complaints and toss out any supplemental material it deems to be inappropriate. But that’s not good enough for adherents to the reigning evolutionary orthodoxy. The Darwinian dogmatists have declared their unwillingness to allow any contrary views whatsoever. To do so, they say, amounts to smuggling religion into the classroom, which of course we can never, no never have.

Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, is ready to run to the children’s defense. “If this bill passes, and religious materials are brought into Louisiana public school as a result, we will go to court to seek justice for the state’s children.”

Never fear! Barry Lynn will protect the students from exposure to religious materials; but alas, who will protect the children from Barry Lynn? He’s seeking to impose his religious views on the children of Louisiana. The people of Louisiana have acted through their elected officials by an overwhelming margin. But Barry Lynn says, “No, sorry, your religious viewpoint is invalid. Mine is the only one that counts.”

I know he would protest my putting it in this way, but this really is what it amounts to. It’s never a question of whether or not a religious viewpoint is going to predominate in the classroom, only a matter of which religious viewpoint is going to predominate. Make no mistake. Secularism is as much a religious point of view as Christianity is. And as matters stand now, only secularism’s religious point of view is allowed. Only the secularist’s view of God may be presented in the classroom, namely, that (if he exists) he’s irrelevant to the discussion (that’s why we don’t talk about him). Only secularism’s view of origins may be taught (big bang, Darwinian evolution). Only secularism’s view of morality may be taught (everything’s relative).

The legislation in Louisiana is about to upset the apple cart, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU and are both looking to make some applesauce. Already they are threatening lawsuits.

Monday, June 16, 2008

War of the Water Balloons

It came out of nowhere. I never saw it. But believe me…I felt it.

Smack! Splash!

I’d been hit, and hit good with a water balloon right upside the head, launched by my son from at least 40 feet away. The reason I never saw it coming was because I had my back turned and was running away. I had just made my sortie into hostile territory, unloaded my supply of water balloons, taking out both James and Suzanna, and was making good my escape. I was just about ready to break out into a victory dance as I proudly carried the enemy flag back to our home base.

And then it happened.

James didn’t even know he got me. He said it was a desperation throw. He didn’t even aim. He just let it fly. But it found its mark—my left temple. The force of it snapped by head sideways. I was drenched. It was by far the best throw of the night.

Nevertheless, Melinda, Elizabeth, and I, won the best of three capture the flag water balloon wars over James, Suzanna, and Hannah.

What a way to celebrate Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

In Praise of Daughters

This has been an especially good eating week. One of the blessings of having so many daughters is that they are being trained to be wives and mothers, which makes yours truly the beneficiary of their still developing—but already amazingly honed—culinary skills. This week Melinda had three of our girls each take a turn at preparing supper. On Tuesday Suzanna (15) made homemade pizza. On Wednesday Elizabeth (13) made spaghetti and garlic bread. And Thursday Hannah (11) made Mexican food…just the way I like it—with fried flour tortillas shells. All this was after Melinda made smothered steak and mashed potatoes on Monday night.

As I said, it’s been an especially good eating week.

The Chronicler says that Obed-edom’s eight sons were a blessing from God (1 Chron. 26:4-5). No doubt they were. But if Obed-edom could have eaten what I’ve eaten this week, he might envy me for my five daughters!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

While we’re on the subject of atheism, I should mention the “conversion” of Anthony Flew. He is a renowned philosopher who for the second half of the 20th century was perhaps the world’s leading atheist. He first came to prominence as a philosopher when he presented a paper at the Oxford University Socratic Club in 1950, chaired at the time by C. S. Lewis, himself a former atheist. The Socratic Club was formed for the purpose of providing “an open forum for the discussion of the intellectual difficulties connected with religion and with Christianity in particular.” Flew’s paper was entitled “Theology and Falsification,” and became the one of the most widely reprinted philosophical publications of the 20th century. He went on to write more than thirty books, including God and Philosophy, The Presumption of Atheism, and How to Think Straight.

Several years ago I showed a televised debate between Flew and Dr. Gary Habermas on the subject of Christ’s resurrection to a small Bible study group. One of the really interesting things about the debate was how clearly it showed the power of presuppositions. Flew admitted that in a world where miracles were possible the evidence for the resurrection of Christ was very persuasive. The problem was (from his perspective): we don’t live in a world where miracles are possible. Ergo, there must be some other explanation for the evidence. Flew came across as a very likable guy, a grandfatherly type, someone you were moved to pity rather than be angry with for his arguing against the faith. Unlike the trio mentioned in the previous post, he was respectful and courteous.

It was with a great deal of interest, therefore, that I read some years later of his “conversion.” The word is in quotes because it was not a conversion to the Christian faith, but to a form of Deism. As he explains in his newest book (2007), There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind,

I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source.

Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science... (p. 88)

The leaders of science over the last hundred years, along with some of today’s most influential scientists, have built a philosophically compelling vision of a rational universe that sprang from a divine Mind. As it happens, this is the particular view of the world that I now find to be the soundest philosophical explanation of a multitude of phenomena encountered by scientists and laypeople alike.

Three domains of scientific inquiry have been especially important for me… The first is the question that puzzled and continues to puzzle most reflective scientists: How
did the laws of nature come to be? The second is evident to all: How did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife? And the third is the problem that philosophers handed over to cosmologists: How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence?” (p. 91)
In the book he explains how he--though growing up the son of a Methodist minister--became an atheist, and what, in turn, caused him to reconsider the whole question. He is not yet a Christian, but he clearly expresses profound respect for the Christian faith.

In both my antitheological books and various debates, I have taken issue with many of the claims of divine revelation or intervention. My current position, however, is more open to at least certain of these claims. In point of fact, I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honored and respected… If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat. (pp. 185-186).

He includes two appendices written by Christian thinkers. The first is a critical appraisal of the New Atheism, written by Roy Abraham Varghese, a devout Syrian Rite Catholic. The second is entitled, “The Self-Revelation of God in Human History,” by the well-known Anglican leader, N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham.

Anthony flew over the cuckoo’s nest of atheism and seems to be on his return flight. C.S. Lewis took a similar path. He grew up in the church, became an atheist as a young man, found atheism to be intellectually untenable, became a Deist, and eventually a Christian. We may hope and pray for the same happy ending for Anthony Flew.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What's New About the New Atheism?

I’ve been reading a number of books by and about the New Atheists: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. What makes the New Atheism new is not its arguments so much as its hysterics. For the new atheists, everything that’s wrong with the world is traceable to the presence of so many people who believe in God. The new atheists are not content to simply give reasoned arguments for their position, they feel compelled to mock and vilify their opponents. It’s not simply a matter of, “I don’t believe God exists,” but rather, “The God portrayed in the Bible is wicked and those who believe in him are fools.”

Richard Dawkins, for instance, in The God Delusion, says, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” He has also said that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse.

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, likens religion to a form of mental illness which, he says, “allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.”

Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, says religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”

The game’s afoot! The battle is joined! A number of Christian leaders have seen to it that the New Atheists’ belief-less babblings don’t go unchallenged. Doug Wilson has answered Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation point by point with his Letter from a Christian Citizen. I recommend that you read Harris’ book one section at a time, followed by Wilson’s rebuttal of the points raised in the section. When you’re done with both books, read Joel McDurmon’s, The Return of the Village Atheist. It will be very clear that Harris isn’t at all the paragon of reason he fancies himself.

Alister McGrath, professor of history at Oxford University (and a former atheist himself), along with his wife Joanna, have answered Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion with The Dawkins Delusion: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. Philosopher Michael Ruse says of Dawkins, “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGrath’s show why.”

Perhaps the most powerful blow to the atheist triumvirate is The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day, an instructive and very entertaining no-holds barred approach to dealing with their folly.
This trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world… I’m saying that they are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably, and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C. Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk, and he’s wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he’s wrong. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the orders of magnitude of his wrongness.
Day musters an impressive collection of historical and statistical facts to put the lie to the New Atheists’ claims. His incisive thinking and razor sharp wit make the book a delight to read. He doesn’t just answer their arguments, he demolishes them. I’m glad he’s on our side!

Here Goes

I'm taking the plunge. I'm finally entering the blog world, and I am probably getting in way over my head. But hopefully I'll be able to tread water and keep afloat. I hope to make two or three posts a week on a variety of topics including: the Bible, current events, church and family life, art, history, philosophy, economics, politics, education, food, friendship, laughter, literature...in a word: LIFE.